JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –Fourteen officer and enlisted Soldiers assigned to various Army medicine commands earned the coveted Expert Field Medical Badge (EFMB), during a grueling two week testing event conducted by the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence (MEDCoE) at Joint Base San Antonio Camp Bullis, Texas. The culminating events, a 12 mile road march and final event task, were followed by an award and graduation ceremony hosted by Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster, MEDCoE Commanding General, at the Camp Bullis Parade Field, April 1, 2022.
MEDCoE, the proponent for the Army’s EFMB Test Control Office, last hosted an EFMB event in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed MEDCoE’s own testing schedule, and this year’s event signified a return to normalcy.
The MEDCoE EFMB test event began on March 19 with 104 Soldiers during a standardization, or familiarization phase. The EFMB is one of the toughest and highly sought-after U.S. Army special skill badges. Of the many Soldiers that compete for the badge annually, few successfully obtain the prestigious award. According to the EFMB Test Control Office, the EFMB test event pass rate for fiscal year 2021 was 27 percent.
Col. Johnny Paul, who earned the EFMB in 1999, served as the EFMB Board Chairperson for the MEDCoE test event. “For the past 57 years, the EFMB has served as a symbol of excellence, courage, and honor for those very few who have earned it,” Paul said. “It also serves as a beacon telling all others that you will do everything in your power to save lives on the battlefield.”
For nearly two weeks, the candidates were challenged with technically rigorous written exams, a physically demanding combat fitness assessment, and had to complete advanced day and night land navigation. Successful candidates demonstrated proficiency in warrior skills, evacuation skills, an arduous tactical combat casualty care lane under simulated combat conditions, a 12 mile road march and a weapons proficiency exam.
“You all were tested physically, mentally, and while many did not make it, you final 14 demonstrated the proficiency, tenacity, grit, and the sacrifice needed to overcome all obstacles,” Paul said. “On behalf of the test board, as well as the over 160 cadre who have supported you through this process, I would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations. You have all earned our respect and I salute you.”
LeMaster, who earned his EFMB in 1988 served as the guest speaker during the award ceremony that was attended by nearly 300 JBSA Soldiers and leaders. He thanked all of the support agencies on JBSA who made the EFMB possible. LeMaster told the crowd that he could not recall who his guest speaker was or what they said during their 30 minute speech at his EFMB graduation.
“I have no idea what he said, I just know that the pain would not stop,” LeMaster said referring to his mental and physical exhaustion at the time. Out of respect for the awardee’s monumental achievement and deference to the fatigue he imagined they, too, were experiencing he kept his remarks brief. “I am deeply proud of you,” LeMaster said plainly. “You’ve done well. Today is your day.”
Staff Sgt. Kenneth Cavender, a 68W combat medic assigned to the 32d Medical Brigade, MEDCoE, was the EFMB honor graduate and top scorer of all the awardees, the placement of honor was recently coined as “Top Doc”, explained Command Sgt. Maj. Clark Charpentier, MEDCoE Command Sergeant Major who earned his EFMB in 1996.
“Medics in maneuver units informally earn the title of “Doc” after they demonstrate extreme proficiency and those that they work with trust them,” Charpentier said. “Considering that this individual is the top EFMB candidate by scoring the most GOs throughout the duration of the event, he has earned the right to be referred to as the “Top Doc” in addition to his badge.”
Cavender said he was surprised to be named “Top Doc” out of his peers, but credits both self-study and his unit for ensuring he was up to the task.
“My goal coming into this was just to get this badge,” Cavender said. Having attempted the badge one other time, he never expected to be the top scorer. “I am just happy to get it over with, honestly.”
Cavender, who already earned the Ranger Tab, Air Assault Badge and Airborne Badge, found the elusive EFMB the most mentally challenging since it required a lot of academic preparation.
“People pursuing the EFMB should get with their units and try to build a train-up plan like we did so they are prepared when they get here,” Cavender said. He encourages candidates to pay attention during the standardization phase of the course, during which he said he also learned a lot. “Be prepared to learn when you get here but arrive physically ready.”